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July 24, 2002

Deals and More Deals

Dear Wheeler-Dealers:

Today, the first day of the Board of Elections hearing on Mayor Williams's nominating petitions ran from 10 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tomorrow, the hearings will start at 8 a.m., and are expected to run to 8 or 9 p.m. Now, do you think I'm going to write anything witty or profound in themail tonight? And for those of you who doubt that I ever write anything witty or profound, do you think I'm even going to write anything long? Of course not.

On with the show.

Gary Imhoff 


The Secret Deal on St. Coletta’s
Jim Myers, 

Those who claimed in February and March that backroom deals were short-circuiting the planning process for land around the former DC General Hospital now have further evidence gained via the Freedom of Information Act. A March 11 memorandum of understanding on DC General land being given to St. Coletta of Great Washington, a private vendor of services, resulted from a February 26 meeting at which the deal was hammered out. Among those present were Ward 6 Council Member Sharon Ambrose, City Administrator John Koskinen, DC Senior Deputy Counsel Charles Barbera, City Planner Andrew Altman, and Sharon Raimo, executive director of St. Colleta of Greater Washington, a Virginia school for the developmentally disabled. The memorandum was signed by Koskinen (on March 12) and Raimo (on March 14).

It would appear that negotiators for the District were in a giveaway mood — the same spirit of giving that produced funding and a site for the recent Cadillac Grand Prix, also in our eastern Capitol Hill neighborhood. Not only does St. Coletta get free land ($1 a year for 99 years). There also appears to be nothing in the memorandum suggesting what St. Coletta will do in return. Furthermore, there is also an agreement to give land to St. Coletta's for “a future phase of development to include a combination of residential housing and retail uses.” What is this? It would appear that those involved in the backroom deals owe District and community residents a clear, specific and full explanation. Why, besides land for their school, was St. Coletta's being given rights to residential and commercial development of DC General land when no other proposals for private residential or commercial development were being entertained? And why wasn't this granting of rights for residential and commercial development openly laid on the table in the public discussion on Reservation 13 in February and March?

Also, a minor detail, it is the recollection of many in the Capitol Hill community that St. Coletta's Raimo insisted at a May 14, 2002, meeting of ANC6B that no signed agreement existed between St. Coletta and DC. Yet the memo of understanding clearly bears what appears to be her signature.


Still More Less Service by the US Postal Service
Phil Carney, 

The mail box by my building had weekday collections at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Then for months there were posted notices warning us that there would only be one collection at 4:00 p.m. At 3:40 p.m., after throwing in letters that I really wanted to get out today, I saw the new collection time is now 3:00 p.m. No warning, higher prices, less service.


Race Course Noise
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

There is no way that the race promoters of the Grand Prix Races of Washington will ever be able to get the noise level at the nearby homes within acceptable limits. What the race promoters should do, however, is to install air conditioning and triple glazed windows in every one of the homes affected by the noise levels. This would provide those residents with a safe haven while the noise polluting races are going on in that neighborhood. This would be the only fair response since the residents had no say in the establishment of that race in DC.


The Check Really Is in the Mail
Vivian Henderson, 

Re: The Check Is in the Mail: welcome to the club, Mr. Penniman, you have experienced the efficiency of the DC Government. We too sent our tax check in — “Dumb Us.” After receiving several letters about nonpayment, my husband went to the tax office. Surprise, the check was still in the clerk's in-box and had been there for weeks. I have quite a few of these stories; you should hear my experiences about rats in the alley. The Mayor claims there is a war on rats; don't believe it.


Target Coming to 1400 Block of Irving
Bill Mosley, 

This fact hasn't been well-publicized, but the lot on the north side of the 1400 block of Irving — where the old auto shop and post office used to stand — is slated to become the site of a Target store. Many people in the Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant neighborhood might look forward to a big-box store with a wide range of merchandise within walking distance. But I question whether such as store is the right fit for this area. Big-box stores tend not to fit well in dense, pedestrian-oriented residential communities. They can't survive on serving their neighborhoods alone; rather, they must attract shoppers over a wide area. This will mean an increase in traffic in the neighborhoods. How much parking will Target supply? Will it be sufficient for their clientele, or will shoppers be parking on residential streets in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant (or circling our streets looking for parking?) Has Target offered this information to anyone? Has anyone asked?

Another concern is the impact Target will have on other businesses in the area, particularly small, owner-run businesses. With a huge store like Target in their midst, can smaller retail establishments on Mount Pleasant Street, 14th Street and nearby survive? I also wonder how this fits in with the overall redevelopment scheme in Columbia Heights, and fear that Target could drive out potential new businesses that could serve the community and enliven the street environment. Does anyone else have similar concerns — or does anyone think a Target in Columbia Heights would be beneficial?


Denser Development within Walking Distance of Metro
Richard Layman, Northeast DC, 

The last issue of themail had a post from someone representing the Friendship Heights Organization for Reasonable Development, which is concerned about development projects in the Friendship Heights area. Although I can appreciate the concerns that were raised in the post, if we don't have denser development of housing around Metro stations, what was the point of even building the Metro system? Transit-oriented development makes sense. And if you want a good example of it, pay attention to development in Arlington County along the Wilson Boulevard corridor, and now at Pentagon Row in Arlington. Arlington County has the lowest tax burden in the region and a tremendous utilization of the subway system because they made conscious planning decisions to promote denser, mixed use development centered around subway stations.

Housing in the form of apartments by Metro stations will: 1) bring greater income tax revenues to the District of Columbia, which are sorely needed due to various restrictions on how the DC Government can raise revenue; 2) bring more residents into the District able to support the retail that the City so desperately needs (although in this particular situation Friendship Heights is well served by retail, probably the best collection of retail assets in the City in fact; 3) bring residents likely to rely on public transportation, particularly the subway system, to get around; thus bringing more residents without necessarily significantly increasing the number of car trips made in the immediate neighborhood. Apartment buildings in the center city find as many as 80 percent of the residents do not own cars.

I am extremely troubled that people seem to believe that DC should have more residents (and note that in 1950 DC had almost 300,000 more residents than it does today, which probably means more people can be accommodated again) and yet every time a transit-oriented development project is suggested (i.e., Takoma Park, Massachusetts Avenue NE, Brookland) neighbors seem to come up with reasons about why the particular project at hand is an “exception” to the general principles. (Of course, I also got the point from someone in Takoma Park that transit-oriented mixed-use developments should only be built in "blighted areas." Tell that to people in Dupont Circle or Arlington County.) Not everyone relies on a car for everything they do. But it seems to me like the “sensible development” folks, not just in Friendship Heights, think that everyone who moves to the City has five cars. I tell Arlington County officials when they make presentations about how they have implemented and maintained their transit-oriented/mixed use planning model that they should retitle the presentations “How to Kill DC.” It's a shame that our own residents are helping, perhaps unwittingly, to kill DC as well.


Misplaced Priorities
Ed T. Barron, 

Somewhere along the line our Champion of Ethics in DC, Mayor Tony Williams, has taken a few wrong turns. His recent decisions to allow the District to spend $5.1M for the construction of a race course adjacent to RFK Stadium followed by his support for elimination of a full summer school program and reduction of public library hours, clearly shows the Mayor has lost his way. If this is good management (and it is certainly not anything approaching leadership), I'll eat my hat.

Too bad that we don't have a decent Democratic challenger for the primary in September (assuming Williams will be on the primary ballot). It might have been a real horse race. Unfortunately we are likely to be facing another four years of reaction and wrong turns by Tony Williams.


The End of the Line
John Whiteside, john at logancircle dot net 

When the Mayor filed his brief on the tainted petitions, it was the end of the line for me. I've long been a defender of the man; I think his performance has been good more than it's been bad. I think a lot of the opposition to him over the last few years has been motivated more by defending turf than by a desire for good government; in particular, I think the knocks he got on DC General were unfair and that the real story was people profiting from a broken health care system defending their paychecks. But no matter — with this latest, he's lost me (and my vote). I find it really depressing to see him going down this way, but I think that his willingness to ignore the law and ask that the rules be changed for his benefit speak to a shocking character defect in the man, and I don't want to see him continue as mayor of my city. (The petition process may in fact be a bad one, and that's a worthwhile discussion — but this is not how we should be entering into it.)

The problem, of course, is who'd be a good alternative, and we find ourselves a few months before the election with only one other potential candidate having been discussed — and he's a throwback to all of the worst dysfunction of DC's past. So now what?


Anthony Williams as an Administrator
William Haskett, 

I know it is fashionable to let the Mayor believe that he is a good administrator, but it is notorious that he is not one at all. To hire from elsewhere the expensive heads-of-departments he does, is to misunderstand the nature of the problem, and the solutions found are virtually all either top-down without a corresponding change below (at the operational level of services, for example) or purely cosmetic. It is better to be answered politely over the phone than to encounter previous crudities, but does nothing for the actual service pretended to be rendered. This characterization goes all over the government of DC, and nullifies a good deal that might otherwise be useful change.

The other aspect of this Mayor's tenure of office is the tendency to transform what generally might be thought of as neutral performance of government function, consistent with a general freedom of citizens to go about their normal activities. It involves interventions of all kinds and of great variety, exemplified by the recent (actually several years-old, and dating to 1998) brouhaha over what is referred to as "licensing" fees. These evidently involve 123 or so forms of license, to do what otherwise would be considered normal and harmless activities that people engage in, usually without government taking notice of it or them. But now these are transformed into activities only permitted if allowed by license, and for a fee that might be considerable, and requires a new set of offenses for engaging in that which is harmless action but not permitted without a license. This forms yet another link in a chain of administrative permissions and prohibitions, all having in common the levying of a fee, sometimes graduated, sometimes not, and involving records that usually will not be in the possession of the citizen, and only accurately in the files of the District government by happenstance, and which are very often in error or out-of-date. This ranges from real-property assessment records, to motor vehicle offenses and unpaid fines, which are then tied to a unitary governmental entity that holds itself entitled to deny renewals and extensions for unpaid sums arising from matters very far from the immediate questions under consideration.

In short, we move into an administrative world which has something, but not a lot, to do with the political world of freedoms and protections-from-harm that government has generally been held to connote in our tradition. This is "big brother" with technology. It takes the whole range of human activities as its subject matter, and levies a fee for breathing. It coerces conformity with its rules by invoking executive discretion. It operates within the confines of administrative permissions, and takes by retail what legislation is supposed to deal with by open discussion and the creation of broad fields of action for the citizen to do with as he/she likes. It is very dangerous to freedom because it purports to be protective. It confiscates citizen discretion in the name of administrative efficiency. In the process, it subverts the processes of government it claims to represent.


Insult and Baggage
Brian Thorn, 

As a lifelong Democrat, I've always voted for the Democratic candidate for Mayor, and Tony Williams has been an insult and baggage to our party. He should be ashamed of his failure to monitor his petitions. He lost Ward 2 to “No Endorsement,” and I believe Democrats should throw Norm Neverson and the corrupt DC Democrats out of office.


For Mayor
Sharon Cochran, 

In the last issue of themail, Bob Levine asked about other candidates for Mayor. Isn't candidate former Councilmember Douglas E. Moore, the guy who jumped on a tow truck driver's back and bit him? In addition, I think that there was a later incident involving an attempt to ram his car into a girlfriend's basement apartment or something like that.

I don't think that anything needs to said about wanna be Mayor Kevin Chavous, other than he oversees the schools and libraries for the City Council.


Write In David Catania
Sean Snowden, Jr., 

Last year the city was excited over the prospect of David Catania as Mayor; now we are ashamed at all the Letterman and Chris Rock jokes about the DC Petitions. Please Democrats and Republicans, write in David Catania for Mayor.


Petition Fiasco
Michael Piacsek, 

I am outraged at Mayor Williams for this whole petition fiasco. I'm not angry just because of his incompetence in actually allowing fraudulent signatures to be submitted on his behalf, but because of the arrogance and contempt that he continues to display in blaming everyone but himself and by challenging the legitimacy of BOEE and the election laws themselves. It is the last straw in a long string of illegal errors, frauds, and broken promises to the people of DC.

Larry Seftor wrote that he'd sign a petition to recall Mayor Williams. With the election so close, a recall isn't really feasible. However, I'd love to see a petition campaign to collect 10,000 REAL signatures from 10,000 REAL voters in DC demanding that Tony Williams' name be OFF the ballot in November. We need to show him that DC residents will not accept his incompetence anymore. Is anyone else willing to gather signatures to oppose Mayor Williams? Let's show him how easy it really is to gather at least 2,000 signatures when people believe their cause is just. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Statehood Green (like myself) we can all agree that Mayor Williams should not run for reelection.

[One footnote: recalls are not allowed by law during the first and last quarters of electoral terms -- that is, the first and last years of four-year terms and the first and last six months of two-year terms (such as for ANC Commissioners). — Gary Imhoff]


Lincoln’s Lights Out
Lea Adams, 

So it's the cappuccino and political chatter that's turning all those self-respecting critters into jitterbugs! Given the proximity of the memorials to Haines Point, I was worried that it might be something a bit stronger. Boy, am I relieved!


Brief Summary of House DC “Voting Representation in Congress” Hearing
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

The Subcommittee on the District of Columbia of the Committee on Government Reform of the House of Representatives,, chaired by Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD), held a hearing on Friday, July 19, on "Voting Representation in Congress." 

Rep. Morella said that, “To me, it seems inevitable — inevitable — that the citizens of the District of Columbia will one day have voting representation in Congress. . . . Congressional oversight is no substitute for voting rights.” She said the hearing would, she hoped, “assist us in determining where we go from here.” She said that although she understood there were forceful arguments otherwise, “It seems obvious that the District of Columbia is not a state, and thus Congress's legislative power would have no bearing on the District's voting representation in Congress.” DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the panel and highlighted the work of Rep. Browne. She encouraged others to follow his effective methods. There were seven witnesses and about 55 observers in the audience, including Councilman Adrian Fenty. Most DC elected officials who were not invited to testify did not attend.

Mayor Anthony Williams wore a bright red bow tie. No one breached the topic of campaign petition signatures. That's a self-determination/Home Rule issue, hopefully not for a Congressional hearing. Mayor Williams said, “We are here today because the need has arisen and because you are vested with the power and responsibility to make sure that all Americans can exercise their rights. Full voting representation in Congress is a fundamental right held by every citizen of the District of Columbia.” He said, “There are 572,000 'real people' living within the 10 square miles known as the District of Columbia.” (DC was 10 square miles until 1846.) He asked Congress to pass the "No Taxation without Representation Act." Williams supported budgetary autonomy, and said Congress should make a distinction between the federal center and the local city of Washington, DC. Council Chairman Linda Cropp noted that this was the first hearing on this topic in a long time, and presented a resolution of the Council in support of the “No Taxation without Representation Act.” She said, “Madame Chair, for far too long the residents of the District of Columbia have been invited to the dinner table but have not been allowed to eat. District residents are hungry for Congressional voting rights, and District residents are starving for democracy!” She attached a Sense of the Council resolution developed by the DC Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights and Redistricting, chaired by Councilman Phil Mendelson, supporting the Bill. She made a case for fiscal autonomy. Rep. Morella picked up on a line of questioning by Congresswoman Norton and asked, “What more could be done to raise national awareness of DC's issue?” After discussion, Chairman Cropp noted that, by budget rider, “We're forbidden to spend our locally raised tax dollars in support of voting rights.” Morella curtly said, “You are. Maybe you could demonstrate this on your own time.”

DC Representative (shadow) Ray Browne supported the Bill. Rep. Morella flashed the only smile I noticed when he made the point that decisions in DC should be made by residents like those of “Cleveland Park not Cleveland, Ohio.” Rep. Browne offered supporting evidence of elected official support for Senate and House voting rights that he has collected from cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Illinois, New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and the state of Alaska. Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska wrote to Rep. Browne, “In the years before 1959, Alaskans held views that undoubtedly parallel those of the current residents of the District concerning the obligations of citizenship and proper representation in Congress. Like District of Columbia residents, Alaskans paid taxes, served their country in time of war, and longed for a voice in national government.” Reps. Morella and Norton both praised Rep. Browne and Rep. Morella suggested he should be cloned. DC Republican Party Chair Betsy Werronen said, “[T]he residents of the District of Columbia are citizens of the United States. We are entitled under the Constitution to the same rights and responsibilities as all other United States Citizens. . . . We must have the right to voting representation in Congress just like all other citizens.” Ms. Werronen said she did not know why the Republican Party had withdrawn its long-standing support for DC voting rights in the most recent Party Platform. She said the DC Republican Party supported a vote in the House as a first step, as a practical matter, because there was support. When Congresswoman Norton asked if the DC Republican Party's problem would be solved if DC acquired two Senators via Constitutional amendment, Werronen said she would have to speak with the Committee, but asked, “If you want Senators, would that mean statehood?” She said, “There has never been a Congressional Committee to review what the next step for DC should be . . . there are so many different ways to do it. So many views, and we don't have consensus.” She said they “believe the arguments for voting rights are compelling enough on their own,” without consideration of the “no taxation” part of the Bill.

President of the Greater Washington Board of Trade Robert Peck said the Board of Trade has supported voting rights in the Senate and House of Representatives for DC since 1917, and in 1972 endorsed the Home Rule Charter. He said the Board of Trade supports expansion of the Home Rule Charter, including budgetary and legislative autonomy. He said this is based on “pragmatic considerations.” He said their members throughout the region support and promote voting rights for DC in Congress. Mr. Peck explained the benefits to the region of having Senators and greater levels of DC autonomy, and made a business case — DC representatives will add clout to the whole region. He said the current arrangement violates fundamental principles of business management. Mr. Peck said he didn't know if “we want to market DC's disenfranchisement” because that message isn't a positive marketing point for attracting business. He said that having an improved business climate was a better marketing point for developing the economy. Rep. Morella said, “Your groups could be a good conduit.”

Executive Director of DC Appleseed Center Walter Smith, having been Deputy Corporation Counsel for DC when DC brought suit in Alexander vs. Daley contending that DC's lack of voting representation is unconstitutional, said, “[W]e have brought our case to the Congress because that is precisely what the 2-1 ruling from the court directed us to do.” He said they court ruled that “it is unjust that we do not have voting rights, but this is an issue that Congress, not the courts, should address.” Mr. Smith said, “Congress has the authority by simple legislation to confer voting rights on District citizens.” To his testimony he attached a legal memorandum supporting his assertion. He agreed that Congress could take away legislative rights is confers, but said he didn't think Congress would take rights away once granted. Eugene Boyd, analyst, American National Government Congressional Research Service, reported on a study by the Congressional Research Service comparing DC to ten national capitals.



Boys Town Teach-in
Karen A. Szulgit, 

Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition Invites you to a Teach-In on The (Girls and) Boys Town Controversy: NIMBYism or Neighborhood Takeover? Tuesday, July 23rd, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., basement conference room, National Council of Negro Women, 633 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Green/Yellow Metro Line, Archives/Navy Memorial Stop. Because you deserve to learn the facts, you can effect change in your community, and your opinion matters! Is this just another example of DC residents decrying “Not in MY Backyard” or is the US Congress taking advantage of Washingtonians? Come join our discussion and decide for yourself!

(Girls and) Boys Town, based in Omaha, Nebraska, targeted the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, as the only properly zoned site in DC to build a complex of group homes for 40 troubled youth. A total of $7.1 million in taxpayer money came to (Girls and) Boys Town through the DC Appropriations process in 1999 to help expand its programs here; the city has pledged to pay a $150 per day subsidy for housing and guidance for each youth remanded by the District of Columbia Court System. In 2001, officials at the DC Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) approved the construction of four separate homes to house a total of 24 youths on the 1.6 acre lot in southeast. Wilbert "Will" Hill, Chair, (544-3785) and Ellen Opper-Weiner, Vice-Chair, (547-7131) of the Southeast Citizens for Smart Development (SCSD) are leading the fight against (Girls and) Boys Town locating on Capitol Hill and have openly, publicly, and regularly expressed their dissatisfaction with the process. Rev. Val J. Peter, executive director of (Girls and) Boys Town, responded to community opposition with a lawsuit, claiming that SCSD, Will Hill, Ellen Opper-Weiner, District officials, and the city itself are in violation of the “Fair Housing Act’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race and handicap.” The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), joined by the American Civil Liberties Union-National Capital Area, is defending the First Amendment Rights of the members of SCSD. CIR believes that the members of SCSD have acted in the finest tradition of participatory democracy in speaking out against the project. In February 2002, residents argued that building permits granted to (Girls and) Boys Town violated a city law barring the construction of community-based residential facilities within 500 feet of existing ones. In May 2002, BZA officials reversed themselves and stripped the permits for (Girls and) Boys Town. Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) asked about 40 members of Congress to sign a letter of petition calling on Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), chairman of the House’s DC Appropriations subcommittee, to recognize the “fundamental injustice” of the DC zoning officials, and to take proper action. For another side of the story, contact: Sharon Robinson, Public Relations Consultant, (Girls and) Boys Town, 4801 Sargent Road, NE, 832-7343, fax 832-9807,



Membership Position at National Health Advocacy/Education Organization
Rene Wallis, 

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), based in Bethesda, Maryland, has retained Slesinger Management Services to recruit an energetic and creative person to serve as Director of Membership. This person will oversee the organization's work in recruiting and retaining members, and will play a lead role in designing new programs and services that meet members' needs. Community health centers are nonprofit organizations that offer comprehensive primary and preventive health care, including medical, dental, social, and mental health services, in urban and rural areas where access to doctors and medical facilities has historically been inadequate. These centers serve predominantly low-income people, including migrant workers, people who are homeless, and families without private health insurance. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 community health centers throughout the country serving 11 million people. NACHC itself has a staff of 59, and a budget of $14 million.

The ideal candidate for Director of Membership should have at least five years of progressively responsible, hands-on experience in membership within a national association. Experience with organizational memberships (as opposed to lower-cost individual memberships) would be especially valuable. The complete announcement is posted at



Apartment Rental Sought
Jon Katz, jon-at-markskatz-dot-com 

My friend seeks a 1 or 2 bedroom rental near downtown Silver Spring, to move in no later than August 6. Complexes of interest include the Parkside Plaza and Rock Creek Gardens condos. If you know somebody who's renting in the area (condo or apartment complex) or who has access to listings, please contact me at the above-listed E-mail address, or at 301-495-4300.



Pediatric Care Volunteer Work Day Saturday
Sarah Barnett, 

If you have a few hours free on Saturday, July 27th, Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care, Inc., an after school facility serving children from the District, Maryland and Virginia, located at 450 M Street, NW, needs your help. We are having a Volunteer Work Day from noon to 3 p.m. Some of the opportunities on Saturday are giving the five-story stairwell a second coat of paint and the large sitting room two coats of paint; the computer room needs your expertise; the Executive Director, Gerri Graves, always welcomes help researching sources of contributions, help with writing grants and other administrative tasks.

There are several groups (interns, junior/high school students and others) who need to put in a certain number of hours of volunteer time. Pediatric Care (a 501(c)(3) organization) is a wonderful place to accomplish that on our work days. We always welcome new faces. Gerri Graves delights in showing newcomers around, explaining what the staff is accomplishing. The facility is located two blocks from the new convention center. For more information, please telephone Pediatric Care at 347-5366.


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